Legal pressure by a bank to get a divorced mother of two to switch from a tracker mortgage to a new loan agreement, carrying legal costs of more than €3,000, was yesterday described by as “disgraceful”.
County registrar Pat Wallace struck out a case at Limerick Circuit Court, brought by AIB Mortgage Bank, against a woman who was keeping repayments up to date on her original mortgage and arrears, totalling just over €93,000.
Mr Wallace described the behaviour of AIB Mortgage Banking as “disgraceful”, in seeking new and addition legal fees as part of the process, where the woman was repaying €480 on her original tracker mortgage.
“The bank needs to look at themselves and I am striking out these proceedings and making no order,” he said.
The woman was greeted with a round of applause by other litigants as she walked back to the public gallery.
Outside the court, the woman, who asked not to be named, said she felt like being the first divorced person to be dealt with by the bank in repossession cases, and said the bank did not seem to have any system in place following the introduction of divorce legislation.
She bought a house in Co Limerick in 2000, and took out a tracker mortgage.
In 2009, the family circumstances changed when her former husband walked out.
At that time, she applied for a moratorium on the mortgage and this was agreed. She paid interest only of €130 a month in 2010 and 2011.
Without notice, she was contacted by Certus, a debt collection agency who requested a statement of means. Following this, she agreed to pay €480 a month in two two-weekly payments. The payments started on February 21, 2014, and had been kept up to date.
A file she handed to Mr Wallace supported her claim that she had engaged, from the start, in the entire process with the bank.
“The next thing I got was a solicitor’s letter from the bank, telling me that I was to be here [in the County Registrars Court]. I thought it was the cheek of them to come back and land me with their legal fees for a process which I totally co-operated with.”
The solicitor’s letter contained a demand for her to pay legal fees of €3,114 for court proceedings the bank had initiated.
The bank requested the woman take out a new loan and pay the legal fees.
Mr Wallace, in striking out the proceedings,
advised the woman to continue making the payments as she did heretofore.
Outside the courtroom, the woman said: “I didn’t feel at any point that AIB had any procedure that they were following in relation to divorced people trying to sort out their properties.
“In any of the dealings with them, I never got any impression that they had any procedure in place. And obviously I am not the first person to get divorced in Ireland. I felt like it was the 1990s, and I was the first test case that had been divorced, to come before the courts.”
She said she had taken on the mortgage after her ex-husband left the home.
“In August, the bank wanted me to take out a new mortgage in my name and they know, and I said in court today, from the financial statements that I would not be able to meet the terms. So they knew before the made the proposal that I could not meet their terms.”
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